The brand new Patagonia DAS Light Hoody might just be the perfect synthetic jacket for any activity, which is why we call it the Best Overall. This lightweight little brother to the traditionally heavy and bulky DAS Parka has won over our hearts by proving to be ideal for virtually every use. During our six-month test period, we used it on giant volcano climbs and ski descents, for camping, on backpacking missions, and while climbing both at the crags and on peaks, and found that it worked pretty much flawlessly every day. Made with a smooth and slick Pertex Quantum Pro face fabric, we also discovered that this jacket is highly durable, with not a scratch or nick in the fabric after a ton of use. We love that it’s one of the lightest jackets in this review, which makes it packable for just about any adventure, while also providing warmth that far exceeded our expectations. In fact, during many shoulder-season days, we found this jacket to be perhaps a bit too warm, especially if we were in the sun. This is a problem we like to have!
While the DAS Light Hoody is nearly perfect, you should expect to pay a price for this excellent shell — at the time of publication, it was listed for more than any other we tested. Also expect a few of the most common features to be cut in the name of weight: we noticed there are no hem drawcords to help seal out a pesky wind, and likewise only one drawcord to help cinch up the hood (although we thought it worked great!). And while this jacket is incredibly wind-resistant, a great attribute for cold belays and high mountain travel, it also doesn’t breathe very well, so expect to put it on when you stop, but to need to take it off if you are working up a sweat. These downsides are not really flaws, but rather trade-offs, and do little to detract from a nearly perfect jacket. If you like to spend time outside and live in a place colder than Florida, we are convinced you will find an applicable use for the amazing DAS Light Hoody.
The Rab Xenon has long been one of the top performers in our comparative testing, and one of our favorite synthetic insulated jackets. It shares many of the same characteristics as the Patagonia DAS Light Hoody, but can be purchased for significantly cheaper, making it an optimal choice for the budget-conscious. It also features a very smooth and slick, seamless face fabric that does a great job resisting the wind, something that contributes positively to its overall warmth effect as well. It’s lightweight, highly packable, and has a very effective DWR treatment in case you happen to get stuck in a spot of rain or snow. Overall, this is an excellent outer layer that is also one of the most affordable options you will find.
As with any product, there are a few downsides. With a highly wind-resistant shell, the trade-off is much poorer breathability compared to its stretchy counterparts. We also found the fit to be quite large and borderline baggy, so consider sizing down if you fall between sizes. The large fit makes it easy to layer over other layers, but also prevented us from wanting to use it as a mid-layer very often. It’s also not quite warm enough for us to consider using as a daily winter jacket, so we think it serves better specifically for outdoor missions. As a wind-resistant, insulating outer-layer, this jacket cannot be beaten for almost any cold-weather activity such as hiking, biking, climbing, or running.
Evaporative humidifiers in general are better than ultrasonic models at preventing over-humidification, but we were particularly impressed with the Vornado EV100’s ability to maintain an unwavering humidity level for hours on end. In addition to setting the fan speed on high, low, or auto, the EV100 also gives you the option to dial in a specific humidity level—but only within the limits of the ideal humidification range of 40% to 60%. This is a nice touch, especially if you want a little more control than the simple three-notch dial on the HCM-350 but don’t want to worry about the room getting dangerously dank (which often happens with ultrasonic models). The EV100 also comes with a large cylindrical tank that’s easy to open, carry, and clean—unfortunately, though, it isn’t dishwasher safe. Like a lot of Vornado products, the EV100 has great air circulation, ensuring the moisture spreads evenly throughout the room; however, it also emits a slightly more fan-like white noise than other evaporative models we tested (although it’s not technically louder, it does sound different from what you might expect). While the Vornado is pretty great overall, the sound and lack of dishwasher friendliness prevent it from being our top pick. But if anything goes wrong with the EV100, at least it’s backed by Vornado’s five-year warranty, which is the best protection of any humidifier we’ve seen.
The Honeywell HEV685W isn’t the quietest, cheapest, or most convenient humidifier we’ve tested, but it’s certainly got an edge in capacity and power, making it ideal for larger rooms. Each of the HEV685W’s two tanks can hold up to 1.5 gallons of water, for a total of 3 gallons of storage—and if one runs out, you can fill the other up without having to stop the humidifier. That’s about double the capacity of our other picks, which means less-frequent refills. The HEV685W is also one of the fastest-working humidifiers we tested: It initially raised the humidity level more quickly than any other model, before leveling off to a similar performance pattern after a half-hour of operation. Unlike the otherwise-similar HCM-350, the HEV685W lacks dishwasher-safe parts, but it’s easier than most to clean, thanks to its wide tank openings.